Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Arguably the most influential fashion designer of the 20th Century, Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel knew a thing or two about style, and wasn't afraid to share her thoughts with the world. 
I had started out my first post on this blog of mine with the article that I sent in India Vogue Magazine Young Writers' Competition (For which I sadly did not win!). And I believe I owe to anyone reading this blog, a much more sound research on her philosophy of life. So here I am, typing down these words, trying to hold on to the Chanel Insights...
Chanel remains one of the world's most successful and highly respected fashion empires, and while its founder passed away in 1971, her observations on the world of couture continue to hold relevance: they're so elegant and yet so very simple, just like the designs themselves. Here are a few Coco Chanel quotes that have inspired me; I hope they do the same for you. 

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."
"There are people who have money and people who are rich."

And finally, the quote that sums up the philosophy of the Chanel brand, and is my own personal favourite: "Fashion fades, only style remains the same."
There is plenty of literature available on the life of this amazing woman, and the most recent film - Coco Avant Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou - is unmissable for any style-conscious person. Coco herself may be gone, but it seems that her legacy, like her designs, is one that is destined to endure the test of time.
Here is a presumed public domain image of Coco Chanel from 1957 at age 73
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born in Saumur, France:
The next picture was scanned from "Decades of Fashion" by Harriet Worsley.

From the book: "A well-groomed Coco Chanel poses in her signature style: an easy cardigan suit, two-tone shoes, strings of pearls, and bobbed hair, a look which is still a classic of today".
The following picture was scanned from "Decades of Fashion" by Harriet Worsley.
From the book: "This picture was taken in 1929, when Coco was forty-six, the year in which she opened an accessories boutique attached to her Paris salon. The pearls on the pin trimming her straw hat are extra large. Chanel played with oversized costume jewellery that did not pretend to be real."

The next picture was scanned from "Decades of Fashion" by Harriet Worsley.

From the book: "The little black dress was made fashionable by Coco Chanel and Edward Molyneux and was promoted by American Vogue in 1926. Black dresses had not previously been fashionable for society women, unless they were in mourning. For one thing, they made a good base from which to show accessories. A velvet dress by the House of Jenny (above, left), another dress by Jenny showing off a tasselled lipstick holder (above, centre), and a dress by Madeleine Vionnet (above, right) with signature scalloped panels."
The next picture uis about 1930s dresses, originally uploaded by Gatochy.
"Fashion editor-turned designer Mainbocher's black evening dress (above, left) sets off a diamanté feather at the waist. Velvet was still popular for evening and Chanel designed wide-shouldered evening suits in black velvet. This dress (above, center) is by Robert Piguet who was known for his easy tailored dresses. Black satin trimmed with silver fox was used for this Mainbocher dress with its matching cape (above, right)."
The following picture is Mainbocher dress, 1930s, originally uploaded by Gatochy:
 "Black satin trimmed with silver fox was used for this Mainbocher dress with its matching cape."

“When a woman is dumb she sees in him a weak person, funny to be with but not very dangerous; when she’s smart she finds him to be someone who divines her, understands and listens to her. Since all women, whether stupid or intelligent, love the flytrap of compliments and since pederasts know how to manipulate praise, or have the gall, or the malice, to toss out immoderate adoration, women are their chosen victims. Women are always ready to believe them. They speak the same language, the stinging tongue of implication, heinous gibes, and baffling hypocrisy.
“They put around women’s necks garlands of compliments, necklaces of flowery flattery, with which they strangle them. And their beautiful friends are ecstatic; women no longer dress to please men but the pederasts, and to shock other women, because what the boys like is what is far out, outre. God, the number of young women I’ve seen die under the influence of ’awful queers’ – death , drugs, ugliness, ruin, divorce, scandal, nothing is too much when it comes to demolish the competition and to take revenge on a woman. To triumph over her they follow her like a shadow, everywhere, except in bed. Homosexuals become stage designers, hairdressers, interior decorators, and especially couturiers. They rush into deadly eccentricity, into their own artificial netherworld.
“When I say pedarests, I mean the pedarest mentality, which is even more widespread. We all know nice family men who are ‘inverts,’ fathers who are bent over cribs and, at coming-out balls*, scour the rooms for decent husbands for their daughters. Homosexuals are the escorts of high society, the life of decadence, ans as such the germs of bewitching epidemics. They are the ones who inspire hats no woman can wear, the ones who acclaim unwearable dresses, they are the canny, chatterbox commentators on stilt heels, the lethal publicists for furniture upholstered with satin. They are the only men who love make up and red nail polish. They make up the backbiting and perceptive army for whom cynical pederasts with their beards, dirty knots of hair, gnawed fingernails, and decayed teeth are only the forerunners.** They don’t have the avant-garde tastes of the veterans, but they serve as links between the old guard and womanhood; they are the ones who make up the mood and the climate.”
-Coco Chanel recounting the previous decade circa 1940-1949 to Paul Morand, printed in Chanel: A Woman of her Own by Axel Madsen.
JUSTINE PICARDIE'S new book Coco Chanel: The Legend And The Life is published by HarperCollins.
I have had the opportunity to read Justine Picardie's wonderful new book Coco Chanel The Legend And The Life.
I have read countless articles and books on Coco Chanel and seen various films and documentaries most of which have been on the French Arte Channel. I wondered how Justine could possibly top everything that is already out there. But she has done it, I feel as if Justine has taken me by the hand, out of my duvet, strewn with tissues environment and transported me into the glittering crystal world of Chanel.
I feel I have walked on the stone and cobbles that young Gabrielle walked whilst an orphan living with the nuns in Aubazine Abbey, felt the pain and loss of her various love affairs and friendships, partied with her at her fabulous French Riviera bolt hole 'La Pausa', toasted her triumphs and commiserated her disappointments and felt her presence at The Ritz and 31 Rue Cambon.
I love the way the images and illustrations run through the book rather than the usual few pages in the middle, which one has to keep flicking to in most biographies, every image and illustration has been carefully thought through, which brings each chapter to life.
This book is not just a book for fashion lovers or admirers of Chanel it is also a wonderful walk through the history of the twentieth century, encompassing The Edwardian era, First World War, Russian Revolution, The Jazz Age, Second World War, Post War France and into the modern era.  With insights into many famous characters, along the way.
After reading Justine's book I have a much greater insight of Chanels character and what made her tick. How the abandonment by her father affected her for the rest of her life, causing her to invent stories to blur the truth and how her time at the orphanage in Aubazine inspired some of her most famous designs.   she was complexed with a dark side, inventive, innovative, scathing,  generous, a perfectionist, scheming, but above all she was probably one of the most remarkable women of the twentieth century.
In short I adored Justine's book, it is a beautiful book and wonderfully researched.



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